OK, sequence figures!! 

Figure 1 is a straight 45 degree up Line.  In higher performing aircraft; Pitts, monoplanes, etc., this is not difficult, though sighting devices need to be adjusted properly.  In lower performing aircraft; Decathlons, Cubs, Stearmans, etc., as the aircraft slows in the line, the judges tend to see a shallowing of the line, so the nose needs to be pulled slowly, slightly steeper in the second half of the line.  As the aircraft slows to around 80 MPH, push to level flight - NOT level attitude.  At a slow speed, the aircraft must still be 10-15 degrees nose up, so only push to this level flight attitude - don't let the aircraft settle.  Once in level flight, throttle back to maintain slow flight at just above the stall.  The airplane should be nearly 3/4 across the box unless there is a very strong head wind.  At about 3/4 of the way across the box, close the throttle and start the spin.

Figure 2 is a 1-1/2 turn Spin.  This is probably the easiest of all spins as there are no funny angles as in the    1-1/4 turn spins and there is time to see the box and mentally time the spin ahead of the stop point.  This spin turns back into the box, so there will be plenty of visual cues to line up the stop on the X axis again.  All the different airframes we have flying in competition each have their own spin characteristics, so I cannot describe any one set of control inputs that will make a good spin.  Get good spin training and practice spins in your airplane at altitude before you come down to contest altitudes.  Whatever airframe you are flying, during the deceleration into the spin, do not let the plane settle.  The altimeter is too slow to rely on, so use your experience and ground coach to prevent a settle.  Most judges can see a settle and will down grade it accordingly.  The judges do not seem to notice a slight climb, even 50-100 feet.  Settling makes for a poor stall break and a slow start for autorotation.  A slight climb into the stall makes a cleaner stall break, with better autorotation at the start.  Don't zoom, the judges are looking for straight & level flight into a clean stall break and autorotation.  At the stall, the nose should drop, and then yaw and roll into the spin should start simultaneously.  Some aircraft like some in-spin aileron, while others don't.  Good coaching and contest experience will tell you what is needed.  The spin should use about 1200 - 1500 feet of altitude to stop the spin, establish a good vertical down line, and accelerate for figure 3.  160 MPH or better is needed in the Pitts S2-B for figure 3.

Figure 3 is a Reverse 1/2 Cuban Eight.  The 45 line comes first, so don't fly this figure backwards.  This is a downwind figure, and the 45 line will use at least 1/2 of the box, so as soon as you pull out of the spin, check your position to the center of the box.  If there is no wind, and you placed the spin near the upwind edge, you may have a second or two to relax.  If not, count 1-2 to draw a straight & level line, then pull for the 45 line for the reverse 1/2 cuban.  Timing the roll is important in this figure, as the roll must be in the center of the line.  A good rule of thumb is to count 1-2-3, roll, then count 1-2-3-4 then start the pull.  The longer second count is because of the decaying airspeed at the top.  We need a longer time to draw a line of the same length at a slower airspeed.  Try different counts that might better fit your body rhythms; 123, roll, 123456, or 1-2, roll, 1-2-3, whatever works best for you, and gives equal looking line lengths.  During the 45 degree line, the same angle should be held.  Be sure you don't push steeper or shallow out after the roll.  If there are some clouds, you may find one to point at during the roll.  After the line is completed, the looping portion is next.  As with any loop, the top of the loop needs to be floated.  So one gentle tug on the elevator, and then release the back pressure.  All we want to do is break the line to show the judges where the line stopped and the loop started.  Then float the top of the loop.  At about 30 degrees nose down inverted, start pulling just like the backside of a normal loop.  Just before the aircraft reaches level flight, maybe 20-30 degrees below the horizon, ease off just a little on the elevator, so the loop is not pinched to the line.  This is more important in full looping figures, but works well here too.  Check your altitude here.  This figure can lose some altitude so don't go low.  Adjust your starting height if necessary.

Figure 4 is a 1/4 Clover Down.  The down means the 1/4 roll is on the downward side of the loop, while an Up Clover would have the roll in the upward side of the loop.  The first half of this figure is flown just like a normal loop, and we would typically put a full loop in the center of the box so it looks best to the judges.  But if you look at figures 5 & 6, the quarter clover needs to be near the upwind edge of the box, so that the following hammer & wedge are in the right places.  Placing the quarter clover in the right place in the box (right up against the upwind edge) will be critical to prevent an "out" in figure 6 when the wind is blowing.  Fly the airplane to as close to the upwind edge of the box as you can without going out.  This will take some practice and ground coaching.  Fly the first 1/2 of the loop as normal.  In the second half of the loop, a 1/4 roll must be integrated into the loop to make 90 degree heading change so the airplane pulls out level on the Y axis.  Even though the hash marks on the loop show the roll as flown only in the middle 90 degrees of the half loop, the rules state "The quarter-clover is a loop with a quarter roll evenly integrated either within the first half loop up (Family 0.1) or within the second half loop down (Family 0.2)."  Additionally, the rules go on to state "Immediately upon completing the first half loop, the aircraft must begin a constant rate quarter roll such as to reach upright, wings level horizontal flight at the bottom of the second half loop."   All this means that the roll must start at the very top of the loop, and must continue until the aircraft reaches straight & level flight in a new heading 90 degrees off the original heading.  These are not difficult to fly, but are difficult to score well, because the judges don't see them very often, and they are difficult to judge well.  This quarter clover is started just like any loop with a good brisk pull, holding the Gz on past the vertical.  At a point before the top of the loop, about 20 degrees nose up inverted, the float is started.  Just ease off the pitch somewhat to allow the airplane to float ballistically over the top. 

At the very top, start the quarter roll, but don't change the pitch yet - let the float continue to about 20 degrees nose down, then resume the pull as in a normal loop.  At the top, while inverted, find the new Y-axis heading, using the box markers or other landmarks.  Hold the quarter roll aileron in position to finish the quarter roll as the loop is completed.  As before, just before reaching level, ease off on the pitch to float the loop to level flight.  The aileron should be eased at the same time so that the pitch and roll stop at the same time. 

As the aircraft is now flying on the Y-axis, some explanation of the Y-axis is in order.  The X-axis direction of flight is determined at the start of the contest (or each day), and the X-axis figures must flown upwind or downwind as shown on the B or C forms in use.  The Y-axis can & should be used to correct for crosswinds and positioning in the box, and the direction of flight on the Y-axis is left to the pilot.  Crosswinds in the box will blow an aircraft either toward or away from the judges, and toward an edge of the box where "out" penalties wait.  Use the Y-axis flight time & heading to better position yourself in the box to prevent the crosswinds from blowing you out.  (Cheating is legal, as long as the judges don't see it, but that subject is for another article.)   Thus, before the quarter clover is started in figure 4, you should determine which way you want move on the Y-axis.  The easiest decision is to move toward the larger side of the box.  If you are being squeezed up against the judges, make the quarter clover roll so that the flight path at the end is away from the judges. 

Figure 5 is a Hammerhead or Stall Turn on the Y-axis with a roll on the down line.  When pulling for the vertical line on the Y-axis, the judges can't see the pitch as easily, but they will certainly see if you drag a wing in the pull or when you get the vertical line set.  You can use your sight device to set yaw angles as well as pitch angles.  Using your ground coach, fly some vertical lines on the Y-axis to let your coach see if you are dragging a wing.  Do this on up & down lines until your sights are set to eliminate dragging wings.  The turn at the top of the hammerhead is a normal turn.  Be sure you have practiced hammerheads up high, as a botched hammer can easily become an inverted, power on spin.  You do know how to get out of these, right?  Once the turn is completed, we need a 1/4 roll on the down line.  The 1/4 roll must go toward the downwind side of the box.   The Y-axis flight directions are up to the pilot to correct for cross winds and positioning, but the X-axis flight paths are determined by the B & C forms.  On these forms the hammerhead is shown exiting on the downwind line.  The 1/4 roll must roll to the downwind side of the box.  In this sequence the roll in the quarter clover the roll in the hammerhead must be in opposite directions to end up going the proper direction after the hammerhead.  That is, if the quarter clover roll is done to the right, the hammerhead roll must be to the left, and vice versa.  (I write notes like these on my sequence cards as I need all the help I can get.)  OK, back to the roll in the hammerhead.  Once the turn is done, and the line is set, count 1-2-3-4, roll, 1-2-3.  We are going slower at first, so the count must be longer to get the same line length.  Pull out level on the downwind X-axis line.  Check your altitude here.  This figure can lose some altitude so don't go low.  Shorten both of your line counts if necessary to maintain altitude.

Figure 6 is a Wedge or Shark's Tooth.  This will be flown similarly to the reverse half Cuban, but there are no looping portions to this figure.  This figure is all lines and angles.  The 45 degree line should be started near the center of the box on the X-axis, so you don't go out on the downwind side.  A longer count can be used, because no energy is needed to float the top.  As a good place to start, add a full count on both sides of the roll from the reverse half Cuban.  The same requirements exist for the line as in the half Cuban.  Make sure the 45 degree line is held, with the roll in the middle.  At the end of the line after the roll, a good aggressive pull to vertical can be made.  There must be a radius at the top, but if you have any airspeed at all, the radius will be there.  Set a good vertical line of any length to get enough energy for the next figure, the Humpty Bump, and then pull to straight & level flight.  I look at my airspeed in early flights to determine a good count to reach the airspeed I want.  Once I know the count, I don't need to look at the airspeed indicator any more.  I hold my line and use the count.  Check your altitude here.  You can gain or lose altitude in this figure as needed by shortening or lengthening the vertical line.

Figure 7 is a pull, pull, pull Humpty Bump.  The "pull, pull, pull" describes the looping portions of this figure.  Each loop portion of this humpty is a pull on the stick.  There can be many variations of the humpty simply by pushing instead of pulling.    If the wedge was flown near the downwind edge of the box, the humpty can be placed right in the center in front of the judges where the this figure will look best.  Fly just past the center of the box.  In my Pitts, I would wait until I saw the judges or the center box marker come out from under the trailing edge of the bottom wing then pull to set the vertical up line.  This figure looks simple but can be hard to fly well.  Pull to the vertical and set your line.  In the Pitts S-2B, I could give it a quick 1-2-3 count.  Then pull slightly and release the elevator, just one small pump is all it takes.  This will break the line but will let the airplane continue up in an arc - like floating the top of a loop.  The nose will continue to pitch, and at about the 45 degree nose up inverted point, smoothly pull to the stall buffet, and hold enough elevator to just stay at the stall buffet, until pointed vertically down, then set the down line.  The down line can be a quick 1-2-3-4, pull, or look for just below the airspeed needed for an Immelman, the next figure.  In low wind conditions, you should still be near the center of the box while on the vertical down line, slightly on the downwind side.  Check your altitude here at the recovery.  You can gain or lose altitude in this figure as needed by shortening or lengthening the vertical down line.

A good humpty should have a vertical line, a 1/2 loop, and a second vertical line.  The 1/2 loop should describe a half circle at the top of the two vertical lines.  If the loop is not flown properly, the half circle will not be round, causing a deduction in score.  To go into more detail about flying the top of a Humpty, the looping portion at the top makes the pilot feel as if the plane was pitching like a fish hook, not a half circle.  The long shank of the fish hook is the first half of the loop, and the short quick hook side is at the second half.  Because of gravity, if the plane is flown like a half circle, the ending point will actually be much lower in altitude than the starting point.  By flying the fish hook feeling shape, the airplane actually makes a gravity corrected half circle looping portion.  Pulling just to the buffet typically allows enough aileron and rudder authority to overcome the yaw tendencies during the pull at low speeds.  If you are running out of control authority, pull the power some, or start the pull with more airspeed.  If you are not pulling to the buffet, you will close the loop low, meaning the end of the loop was lower than the start of the loop.

Figure 8 is an Immelman or half loop with a half roll at the top.  Fly this figure all the way to the upwind side of the box before pulling.  When I saw the box markers disappear under the leading edge of the bottom wing of my Pitts, I was starting the pull.  That usually kept me just inside the boundary judges.  This needs to be done, because the next figure, the goldfish, uses a lot of box area.  Per the IAC rules, rolls associated with looping figures must have no line between the looping portion and the roll.  In this case, that means the first half loop is flown just like any half loop, including the float at the top.  But when reaching an inverted level flight attitude, the aircraft is half rolled to upright flight.  Notice that the aircraft must be leveled in an inverted level flight attitude.  This is a low speed area again, so the aircraft must be in a nose up inverted attitude, or it will settle out the top of the loop and during the roll.  Practice some low speed 2-point rolls to determine what the inverted level flight view is from your cockpit.  At the top of the half loop set the low speed inverted level flight attitude, and immediately commence the 1/2 roll.  Remember your good roll technique will be important as the aircraft will be flying slowly with lots of drag from the deflected control surfaces.  As the aircraft rolls upright, keep the low speed nose high attitude set until airspeed starts to build up again. 

Figure 9 is the Goldfish.  This figure has 3 separate and distinct parts, and each must be flown well to get a good score for the whole figure.  First, the push for the first 45 degree down line needs to be nearly at the center of the box so the rest of the figure does not go out downwind.  There is no requirement for the length of this line, but get plenty of airspeed for the looping portion to follow.  New competitors will tend to go shallow as the airplane picks up speed.  Push to the 45, and hold that sight picture until the pull for the loop.  As in the Immelman, having the box markers go under the bottom wing at the bottom of the loop should keep the plane in the box.  Pull for the loop as in any looping figure, with a good brisk pull and hold the Gz on until well past the vertical. At the top, float the loop just like normal, then pull to set the second 45 degree down line.  The airplane is slow at the top, so a good 1-2-3-4 count, then the half roll, and a 1-2-3 count after toll should give a good start to getting the roll in the middle of the line.  Hold the 45 degree line during the roll and keep the line straight after the roll.  A brisk pull to level flight will end this figure.

Figure 10 is a competition Slow Roll.  It will be hard to put this figure in the middle of the box with higher performing aircraft, so just fly the goldfish & the roll well and let the roll come near the upwind side of the box.  Try to give a 1-2 count before starting the roll to draw the straight line between figures.  And make another count after the roll before your wing wag to signal the end.  Don't confuse the judges with a roll and too quick wing wag.

The 2010 Sportsman Known should give new and returning Sportsman pilots enough of a challenge and can be flown well regardless of the airframe used. In this sequence, there are several keys to success that we have covered here; practice figure 1A, the box entry, as though it is a sequence figure, practice the sequence at higher altitudes until you learn where and how much altitude is lost throughout the flight, get spin training, and there is no substitute for good ground coaching during practice sessions.

Good luck and see you at the contests!



The 2010 IAC Sportsman sequence is a good sequence for new and returning Sportsman pilots. The first figure allows an aggressive initial box entry, which is good for a couple of reasons.  First, it allows the pilot to better see the box, and to target the proper position and altitude for the fist figure.  Second, a high power entry allows the judges to more easily locate the aircraft inbound to the box.  To better describe this entry, we need to start our box entry with figure 1A, the entry into the box.  This entry method works for all high energy first figures.  While this maneuver is not part of the scored sequence, it sets the tone for the flight and, performed well, makes a favorable impression on the judges.

Practice your box entry as Figure 1A, every time, as thought it was a figure on your sequence card.  The better you start your box entry, the better the first few figures will be.  The high energy box entry starts on a base leg about 1,500 feet above the pull height for the first figure.  (All altitudes discussed in this article are Above Ground Level, AGL.)  To start a center box figure, start the base leg just outside box, slow to about 70-80 MPH (knots works too).  Then, when even with the center, or X-axis, of the box, roll about 135 degrees, and pull the nose around and point the airplane at the center of the box.  Make your wing wag to signal the start of your sequence while in this dive.  Use the throttle to dive to your Vne speed, and level off at your starting altitude.  If the altitude loss was 1500 feet, you should have crossed about 1500 feet of the box putting you right in the middle.  A quick 1-2-3 count to establish a straight & level line, and then pull for figure one. The initial roll and pull from the base leg should be moved as needed to correct for cross winds and for starting earlier or later in the box. 

In the 2010 Sportsman Known, figure 1 must be started about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way into the box from the downwind side, so that the first figure, the 45 degree line, is bisected by the center of the box.  So, the base leg should be flown about 1/4 - 1/3 of a box away from the downwind edge.  The end of figure 1 should be the highest point of the sequence, and we want that altitude to be at least 3000 - 3500 feet.  Using 3500 feet in this example as the high point where figure 1 will end, it is then necessary to determine how much altitude can be gained in figure 1, still leaving enough airspeed to fly off in level flight at an airspeed just above the stall, about 60-70 MPH in an example Pitts S-2B.  This is a trial and error method and can be determined more quickly with a coach on the ground.  The Pitts S-2B could gain 1000 feet in such a 45 degree line, starting the push to level flight at about 80 MPH.  If your aircraft gains more or less altitude, set your Figure 1 starting altitude accordingly.  If we use a 1000 foot gain in Figure 1, then the pull for figure 1 needs to be at 2500 feet.  Backing this into the box entry height, the dive into the box starts at 4000 feet on the base leg.  This slightly high starting position for figure 1 allows enough extra altitude for Sportsman pilots to avoid low calls from the judges.  The starting altitude can be brought lower later in the season as desired to maintain a floor of at least 1500 feet.